Women of the World Wednesday: In reference to our March Object of the Month, we’ll be highlighting Women Peace Activists for our “Women of the World Wednesday” series this month.
(Laura) Jane Addams (1860 -1935) was born in Cedarville, Illinois, the eighth of nine children. Her father, John Huy Addams, was an Illinois businessman and senator. He was a respected member of the community and a friend to President Abraham Lincoln.
Addams attended Rockford College in 1881 and graduated as valedictorian. Addams went on to study medicine and travel throughout Europe for the next six years.
In 1888 Addams and her college friend Ellen Gates Starr visited Toynbee Hall in London, a settlement house that was a first of its kind and a precursor to today’s community centers. Addams and Starr were inspired to build their own house in Chicago. In 1889 they opened Hull House, a converted mansion constructed by Charles Hull.
Hull House eventually contained a day nursery, a gymnasium, a kitchen, and a boarding club for working women. It included 13 buildings, a playground, and a camp near Lake Geneva, WI. Hull House also boasted Chicago’s first kindergarten, daycare center, and the nation’s first theater group. It also offered college-level courses, arts and crafts activities, an employment bureau, social clubs for men and women, and a library.
Addams’ work at Hull House inspired social change across the nation. In 1906, she became the first woman president of the National Conference of Charities and Corrections, and in 1910 she was the first woman to receive an honorary degree from Yale University.
In 1914, at the beginning of World War I, Addams worked for peace, dedicating her efforts to providing relief supplies to women and children in enemy nations. Because of her stance, she was expelled from the Daughters of the American Revolution and viciously attacked in the press.
In 1915 Addams became the chair of the Women’s Peace Party, and later that year the president of the Women’s International Peace League for Peace and Freedom.
Addams was named co-winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1931, along with Nicholas Murray Butler. She passed away in 1935. Fittingly, her memorial service was held at Hull House.
Source: “(Laura) Jane Addams.” Gale Encyclopedia of U.S. Economic History. Ed. Thomas Carson and Mary Bonk. Detroit: Gale, 1999. Biography in Context. Web. 4 Mar. 2014.
Image courtesy of The Library of Congress. George Grantham Bain Collection. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA, LC-DIG-ggbain-12065